10/01/2019 18:05 EDT

Dr. Seuss Exhibit Curiously Picks 'Diverse' Mississauga Ont. For 1st Stop

Did you know about racism in the author's past?

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — An interactive exhibit inspired by the fantastical books of the beloved but controversial Dr. Seuss will kick off in Canada with a holiday-themed room, just in time for Christmas.

Organizers of The Dr. Seuss Experience say the tour’s first stop at Square One mall in Mississauga, Ont., will include a room dedicated to the Grinch — the resident grouch of Whoville who despises Christmas.

The Canadian Press/Ho-Kilburn Live
A sneak peek at the Grinch-themed room that attendees can visit at the Dr. Seuss Experience on its first stop in Mississauga, Ont.

The Canadian premiere on Oct. 26 will also feature a mirrored room dedicated to the bird-like character the Sneetches, resulting in an “endless sea of Sneetches surrounding guests.”

The Canadian Press
Meant as a cautionary tale against discrimination, Dr. Seuss' short story about the Sneetches has yellow birds squabbling over a small physical difference.

The 15,000-square-foot presentation comes from Kilburn Live and Dr. Seuss Enterprises and draws inspiration from the author’s beloved tales.

A maze inspired by “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” will feature thousands of colourful balloons, while one dedicated to “Horton Hears a Who” is full of clovers, and another for “The Lorax” will guide guests into two different worlds based on the choices they make.

The exhibit heads to multiple, yet-to-be-announced cities across North America, with new interactive features expected as it tours.

Starting the tour in Mississauga was a nod to the Greater Toronto Area’s multicultural population, a press release stated, calling the city “an excellent representation of Dr. Seuss’s diverse, global fanbase.” 

It’s an odd choice, considering the author’s own history has been under scrutiny for his older, less-than-inclusive views.

Before hitting it big with children’s literature, Theodor Seuss Geisel drew racist ads featuring caricatures of Black and Japanese individuals. In his personal life, Geisel was known to have worn blackface on at least one occasion. 

His work for kids has also been criticized. Earlier this year, less than two per cent of his work features people of colour, a St. Catherine University study found. And unfortunately, the representation wasn’t nuanced: the people of colour Dr. Seuss depicted were caricatures, with NPR singling out And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street and If I Ran the Zoo for racist imagery. 

Previous Seuss installation had racist image removed 

With growing criticism mounted against the author, U.S. organizations like the National Education Association, which once branded its popular Read America initiative as a Dr. Seuss celebration, have distanced themselves from the whimsical classics

Although the author later drew back from his anti-Japanese sentiments, he did not apologize to Japanese readers of his work or address his other views in his lifetime. 

The Dr. Seuss Experience has yet to announce its full line-up of literary references, but hopefully its stunning installations keep away from the author’s racist work. One Seuss-themed installation wasn’t so lucky: the Dr. Seuss Museum removed a mural in 2017, after facing backlash for featuring one of Seuss’ creations: an Asian character with slitted eyes and a pointed hat. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 1, 2019.

With files from Al Donato.